An Inconvenient Christmas
So this is Christmas, well almost, and it is with slight anxiety that I have to declare something: I am afraid. Or rather, if last year is anything to go by, I am scared of the person I become at Christmas. If you’d asked me this time last year about how my festive preparations were coming along, I would have said in a slightly cocky tone ‘Christmas: I’m all over it’ however this year all I can say is well ‘I’m over it’ Bah humbug? No of course not, I love Christmas. If I had my way I would quite happily transform my entire house into Santa’s grotto from early November. It is only for my benefit that the Christmas Tree Village doesn’t open until December as otherwise our tree would have been up long ago and probably by now, bald to boot.
I don’t even mind the intense barrage of all-surrounding media responsible for cranking up Christmas earlier and earlier every year. I noticed one department store managed to confine their Halloween display to Kitchenware, whilst the rest of the entire shop was adorned with baubles from mid October, and I have to confess I secretly loved it. There is nothing quite like what I like to call ‘the great Christmas crescendo’: an initially deceptively slow and slightly premature trickle, that magically transports you to a frenzied state of panic and, in my case last year, found me red faced and exasperated, and it was only Christmas Eve.
Despite this small insight, generally for me, Christmas preparations have to come early, I have no choice. I would like to say I am the Christmas ninja, ensuring the majority of my gifts are bought, wrapped and posted before advent, but actually the reason for this rather extreme activity, is that half my family lives in one of the remotest places in the world (The Faroe Islands in you’re interested). Here the postal service takes around a month, and only then if the weather there allows the plane to land. However, sadly, this prowess in the early dispatch of gifts, does not project onto the many other avenues of Christmas preparations. I am referring to one specific avenue: the food.
Last Christmas my partner and I decided that since it was our first Christmas in 3 years where I wasn’t either heavily pregnant or we weren’t looking after a newborn, that we were going to go all out on the Christmas catering. We placed orders with the butcher, the fishmonger and the supermarket and it all descended on my kitchen on the 23rd December. This was where the initial pang of stress started, where the hell do you put it all? If only I could have just have downloaded some temporary cloud storage for the gross exaggeration that was my Christmas shop instead of piling it up in a corner with a chair acting as a rather useless toddler barrier.
However, I was a lady with a plan. Every dish from Christmas Eve through to Boxing day was planned in meticulous detail. Every meal had various side dishes, many of which I had never attempted and so had a rather complicated folder of recipe cards from Nigella to the Women’s Institute, arranged in order of requirement. Of course when Christmas Day came around I did not anticipate quite how much time all my preparations would take.
So Christmas morning, after a luxurious breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs washed down with a vat of prosecco (just the adults not the kids) I was faced with a half cut, rather hellish mess, that was not conducive to then preparing an elaborate 3 course Christmas lunch. We were having a salmon mouse starter, followed by goose with all the trimmings and a few random extra trimmings I had selected from an array of magazines, followed by a gut busting selection of puddings and a cheese board. I had my work cut out.
Anyone would have thought we had the Roux family coming round to dinner rather than just my dad who has as much interest in food as he does in knitting and my 2 year old and 10 month old, who would have been beyond delighted if presented with a festive lunch of cheese on toast. I knew for a fact that not a single one of them would even notice that this year I was making gravy, from scratch. However, misguidedly I soldiered on. After a couple of hours it started to dawn on me that if a bar graph was drawn showing how much time my partner and I had spent occupying the kitchen, vs in the living room where the rest of the family were enjoying themselves our ‘kitchen bar’ would have towered over the ‘living room bar’ from vertigo inducing heights.
The defining moment that really demonstrated how much we had lost sight of what Christmas really is about was when I realized the goose stock I had spent an hour creating had been mistaken for dirty water and tipped down the sink. At that point, my partner, or ‘stock murderer’ as he had just become, met eyes across a kitchen that resembled a battlefield, and realized we had gone too far. All we could do was fall about laughing at our complete ineptitude. It most definitely, had all got too much. Smiling, I reached into the cupboard and produced the solution to our problems: Bisto (other granulated gravies are available) and with that lunch was served. However, not before we made a vow, to never do this again. Next Christmas our mantra would not be ‘all over it’, it would be ‘convenience’ using every possible short cut in the book.
So here I am combing the supermarkets ‘pre-prepared’ sections to see who will accommodate my ‘out of a packet’ Christmas the best. There won’t be a star shaped, chocolate dipped peppermint cream in sight, unless of course I can buy them. This leaves me with only one question to ponder: how far can I go in terms of pre prepared food? Well of course, I know this already as it’s all already been ordered. Still no idea where I’m going to put it all though.